Running ads, both online and offline, takes a fair amount of planning, precision and testing. Check out my advertising checklist below. Carefully review before designing or running any advertising campaign. What you’ll learn will cover a wide variety of advertising strategies and how-to tips to ensure your advertising campaigns are successful!
1. _____ Determine your target market first. WHO do you want to reach with your ad? Make sure you’re not wasting time or money advertising to a market that has no interest in what you’re selling. Identify your target and what you expect to get in return by advertising to that niche. Know your advertising objectives and then document them!
2. _____ WHERE does your market hang out? Research the publications, websites, newspapers, magazines where your target market might be found. Are there any advertising statistics available such as demographics? For example, “Our magazine reaches 100,000 accountants, whose average income is between $X-Y.”
3. _____ Collect information on pricing rates, ad terms, specials for extended ad runs, etc. Compare advertising rates based on circulation rates before you buy space. Where can you spend the least amount of money and get the most exposure? Talk to other advertisers in publications you are interested in. You might ask, “Are you satisfied with your advertising efforts in XYZ magazine/newspaper/journal, etc. Are you getting the response you expected? Will you continue your advertising campaign?”
4. _____ Create an advertising budget. Take an average of all media costs to assess what you can afford to spend. Know the costs for advertising in different publications, venues, websites, etc., you might test your ad in a smaller publication or one with a less expensive advertising medium before spending big bucks. When you find out what ad lines pull the most response, you can expand your advertising campaign by going national or spending more for greater exposure on pay-per click engines, for example. Budget for different time blocks and observe their performance to mark any significant differences.
5. _____ Is the time right for your ad? Do you want to control the times your ads run? Is holiday advertising good for your product/service? Are there events occurring out of your control (in the world, your town or country) that might negatively impact advertising? What trends are you seeing? What feedback are you getting from your prospects and customers?
6. _____ Are you prepared for the kind of response you expect? Are you ready for the windfall of attention that your ads are generating such as sales and an increase number of inquiries? If you’re ads are not resonating with your audience, rework the ad to ensure it gets results. Be sure that the information is clear, specific, focuses on benefits, solves a problem, has eye appeal, and has a strong headline. PREPARATION is the key to overall success for any ad campaign. Make it personal so people identify with you and believe that your product/service will meet their needs.
7. _____ What is the lead time for the ad you wish to place? Some offline newspapers require advance notice (1-2 weeks) to run your ad while some magazines require a 2-3 month lead time due to production and printing schedules. Some print publications take much longer. Knowing the lead times for different publications will help you plan your advertising effectively. If you’re promoting your product/service online, think Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, Manta, Foursquare, DexKnows, Angie’s List, Hotfrog, Kudzu. Most are FREE advertising venues with no wait period.
8. _____ Design the ad you want to see advertised. What do you want to communicate to your potential prospect/customer. Remember, stress the benefits of what you’re advertising in large headlines and sub-headlines. Don’t be wordy; get to the point. Use fewer words to make the most impact. OR, if you have LOTS of room in your ad, and you can “tell a story”, then write A LOT (using small print) and give a lot of detail. BUT, use large, powerful headlines to capture the reader’s attention. People skim ads, they don’t read them. The only thing they see, remember, are the headlines that grab them.
In addition to writing your own ad, it’s a good idea to look at other ads in the same publication you’d like to advertise in and other publications to get ideas on how to design your ad. Get ideas for yours. Design, layout, wording, reverse text, bold, underline. Study, observe and learn what attracts YOU to a certain ad. Borrow what you like from their design, and learn what you don’t like about certain ad designs too. Study your competition’s advertisements and those who don’t complete with you. What do their ads look like? How long have you seen them run their ads in the publication you’d like to advertise in? Is there another, similar venue/publication you could advertise in that doesn’t have so much competition for space and eyeball/reader attention? Why aren’t people advertising there? Hmm! Maybe advertising in a publication right next to your competition will be fine due to the high volume of readership and eyeballs scanning the ads.
Do you want to advertise up front in the publication, in the back or in the middle? How about a 1/2 page ad, 1/4 page add or full page ad? Ask the sales representative at the publication you’d like to advertise in to give you some feedback on ad placement, size, etc. It’s in their best interest to help you succeed with your ad. When you do – you might advertise again!
Does you ad require a response? Make it clear. Use “call-to-action” verbs and words in your copy to elicit a response from your prospect / future client. “Call Now!” “Act Fast!” “Go to: www.”
Can you design the ad yourself, or must you hire a professional to lay your ad out in a professional design program to be submitted to the publication where you’d like to advertise in. If you can simply give the advertiser your text and they convert it to an ad, great! On the other hand, if you have to submit a full-color (or black and white) ad with photographs, borders, special fonts, etc., you might have to hire a professional design artist to create that work for you.
If you have to hire someone to create the ad for you, first (you) design the ad yourself on a plain piece of paper, the way you see it, so you can give it to your design specialist. Or, create it in a program you’re familiar with and send that design to them. Once your design artist has created the ad in the design program needed for the advertiser, follow these next few steps.
9. _____ Proof the ad and let 2-3 others review it prior to publication. Don’t trust your own eyes! Whether you created the ad or a professional designed it, you should proof it for misspellings, telephone numbers, brand names, trade names, website addresses, etc. before you agree to or sign off on it before it’s forever in print and then, it’s too late! Even when making minor changes, proof it again.
10. _____ Check the as soon as the ad is scheduled to display. Advertising should capture prospective buyer attention and entice them to buy from you so on the day your ad displays, recheck it for errors. In certain cases, you can ask for credit, an extended re-run or a refund if there are mistakes in the ad that you had no control over.
11. _____ Test your ad! How is it working? If you have a phone number in your ad and the phone isn’t ringing, retest it. Running several ads, use different numbers or coupon codes in each ad. If a website listed, can you track click-through rates for the URL? Try some of the FREE ad-tracker programs such as programs such as ClixTrac.com or LinkTrack.info.
Using an ad-tracker can tell you how successful your ad campaign is. Depending on results such as knowing where traffic is coming from, you can refine or enhance your advertising. This is a “must have” for online advertising online. You’ll want to track the click-through rates from your ad to your website. Other benefits are increase in sales, profitability, keywords working, identify changes in traffic and performance, etc. This tool will gives you useful information plus the ability to continuously monitor metrics as long as the ad runs.
If the response to your ad is low, revisit the header and content and modify it as needed. To entice a better response, offer an incentive (discounts or FREE gift). Remember, people are more inclined to trust information versus marketing; something to think about it.
12. _____ Keep a record of all the ads you run. By maintaining copies of your ads and noting the ones that worked, you can copy any ad and revise it to meet your current needs. Here’s a good way to track all of your ads:
Ad Campaign Name: ______________________
Publication/Site Advertised In: _______________
Product/Service Advertised: _________________
Target Market/Audience: ___________________
Advertising Sample: (ATTACH SAMPLE)
Duration of Advertisement: ________________
Cost Of Advertisement: ____________________
Tracking Method Used:
___ Unique Telephone Number
___ Mention Coupon Code in Ad
___ URL Ad-Tracker
___ Unique Domain Name: _________________
___ Other ______________________________
Results (Good/Bad/Other): _________________
Miscellaneous Comments: _________________
Run The Ad Again? o Yes o No
How Long: _____________________________
Any Changes: ___________________________
Another way to organize your ads is to create a file folder for printouts or cutouts with a list of the publications you advertised in. Over time, these records will assist you when looking for new ideas for what and where to run your next ad.
Don’t overlook the quality of the responses you are getting. You may receive a high number of responses, but are getting the reaction you expected? Are responders viable prospects? Did your ad reach the target audience you anticipated?
13. _____ Calculate the return on your advertising investment (ROI). Did you get a good response? Did you make any sales? Did you increase the number of opt-ins into your list? What was the result of your advertising? Did the ad pay for itself, according to your own terms? If you are satisfied with your campaign efforts, work on new advertising strategies by knowing your cost per leads and cost per sales. Like anything, sometimes, you have to spend money to make money. If your advertising is done right, you don’t need to spend a lot of money and since you know what works by now, buying more ad space could increase your visibility with your ideal customers. Successful advertising might bring more customers to you, but delivering the goods and meeting their expectations will determine how your investment really pays off. Be sure that you honor all the terms of your ad and then surprise them by over-delivering, which can be done in many ways, so you can claim that retention that every business needs.